Do I need to add an email disclaimer to my signature?

What is an email disclaimer?

In layman’s terms, an email disclaimer is a block of text that is added to an outgoing email to limit liability, often appearing at the bottom of an email as a separate section. The content will often include the company name, registered office address and company registration details which is a legal requirement for corporate email in many countries.

This is frequently combined with a confidentiality notice along the lines of “This message contains confidential information and is intended only for…”. Naturally the reason for including one is simple: to avoid a fine or legal action.

View sample email disclaimers

Why might the law require me to have one?

There are many schools of thought as to whether or not email disclaimers are required by law. An organization will generally add an email disclaimer to:

  • Limit the sender’s liability for the content of a message i.e. an employee sending defamatory statements.
  • Cover confidentiality breaches protecting exposure of confidential information such as private data.
  • Highlight that an email does not form the basis of a legally binding contact.
  • Protect against being liable for negligent advice on behalf of an employee.
  • Warn recipients against the possibility of an email carrying a computer virus.

View different disclaiming laws

Many advanced markets have regulations in place that require businesses to add disclaimers to their emails whether they want to or not. Some of these are sector-specific.

It is also important to add disclaimers to internal emails, which should be different from an external one, as different issues can arise. There have been a number of lawsuits that have occurred due to internal circulation of offensive emails.

What are my options?

Let users create their signatures

Many email clients allow users to create pre-defined content for their email signature, which will also include a disclaimer. Once the users have created their signatures, no further action is carried out and they often are no longer monitored.

Users do eventually end up modifying or deleting their email signatures, whether deliberately or by accident. Even if you find a way to overcome this problem, they can still delete text straight out of their email message. This means they can change the disclaimer to the point where it no longer serves its purpose.

Use another system to route emails

Other companies take responsibility for adding email disclaimers away from all users and set one up on a separate system. Some examples would be a firewall, an anti-virus or anti-spam system which include features to add text to some or all emails that pass through them. If all messages go through one of these systems, then it gives you straight email compliance.

Some common issues do occur though:

  • Many of these systems only allow plain text to be entered, giving you no control over layout and you can’t have images or logos.
  • There is unlikely to be any control over where the email disclaimer goes other than the top and bottom of an email.
  • There is no way to prevent the system from adding the disclaimer again and again. After several replies in an email exchange, disclaimer text can very quickly build up so that it ends up turning into an email disclaimer exchange, dwarfing the actual message.

Add disclaimers via a server

With Microsoft Exchange 2007 and above, all disclaimers are added on the server with the Hub Transport role. This gives you greater flexibility as these servers handle all of your emails, internal and external.

However, the disclaimer features that come with Exchange are very basic and often do not meet the needs of many organizations. It won’t let you have HTML signatures, create different signature templates for various sender and recipient groups or let you add images like logos as it will turn them into attachments.

So I need dedicated software that will add email disclaimers for me?

Signature Manager Exchange Edition allows you to easily define the disclaimers that are added to every email. Disclaimers get added at the server automatically and users have no way of changing them. With central management, you can ensure that all users’ corporate emails consistently have a professional email signature with the necessary compliant legal disclaimer.

Mail Disclaimers Signature Manager Exchange Edition FAQ